In an effort to increase hiring diverse graduating attorneys, it is critical for law schools to focus on increasing diversity in their student bodies in order to prepare the next generation of qualified and diverse attorneys for law firms to hire from. I hear recruiters at law firms share a common challenge regarding hiring out of law schools; that year-after-year they find a limited diverse candidate pool to choose from.
This blog includes initiatives that three law schools are doing in order to attract and retain diverse students. These initiatives can be utilized by other law schools that are looking for a benchmark as well as law firms that are dedicated to increasing diversity.
Columbia Law School
To highlight the importance of diversity off the bat, Columbia Law School emphasizes their focus on individuality and acceptance throughout their website and marketing materials, repeatedly illustrating their commitment to inclusion. Their website proudly displays a list of diversity and inclusion events which range from sponsoring students to attend diversity conferences, creating inclusive peer-mentor training about unconscious bias, and inviting book authors and columnists that specialize in diversity to present to students. These initiatives which revolve around inclusion and acceptance reinforce the value of diversity and provide a safe spaces for minority groups to form strong connections with their school and community. One of Colombia's main initiatives is Community Peer Mentor Training, a program where first year students meet with mentors to discuss their personal biases and develop strategies for becoming more accepting. This encouraging difficult discussions and lessens prejudice and stereotypes in the future.In addition, the school holds a multitude of events revolving around current events which heavily affect minority groups. For example, in September of 2018, Columbia Law School held a discussion on the Kavanaugh Hearing, it was intended to answer for questions and concerns from students and faculty. This is incredibly important, because events like these empower minority groups currently in the school while also showcasing inclusion within Columbia to future students. By actively displaying these opportunities on their application website, any student can see this law school’s focus on diversity, increasing Columbia’s pull towards diverse candidates.
The University of Chicago
Another law school exceeding in the field of diversity is University of Chicago, which places an emphasis in increasing discussion about diversity and working towards a multicultural and gender-diverse staff and student body. The mission statement of the university heavily focuses on diversity valuing a “well-rounded, critical, and socially conscious lawyer and leader” with the “belief that ideas matter and are worth discussing,” highlighting the importance of an open-minded and accepting student. Additionally, the school states that their goal will be fulfilled “only when [their] community includes people of diverse backgrounds and perspectives, and when all people within [their] community feel welcomed and enabled to bring their views and experiences to these discussions.” With a mission statement focused on inclusivity, the university illuminates their commitment to understanding and acceptance, providing a strong guiding statement for their faculty. This piece reinforces the fact that diversity is not only an important part of University of Chicago, but an aspect essential to their overall mission. In addition to this proactive mission statement, the university also has developed a webinar series for prospective and admitted students, targeting individuals who were unable to attend informational on-campus visits. Through this program, the school reaches out to minority and low-income students, providing them with information about the university and the multitude of opportunities awaiting all individuals at University of Chicago. Also through this program, the university gives students the opportunity to engage with faculty and administrators about diversity, inclusion, and other topics through videoconferences, helping minority applicants discuss their choices and work towards a successful law school career. Through these initiatives, University of Chicago has become the most diverse law school in terms of Hispanic acceptance rates, earning a perfect score on U.S. News’ Diversity Index.
Cornell University utilizes a variety of initiatives to draw in diverse applicants, focusing on outreach for undergrad students and creating networking possibilities for a welcoming student body. The Diversity Matters Outreach Program is an initiative which focuses resources towards underrepresented groups, providing them with preparation for law school admission. These programs assist racially and ethnically diverse students with applications, scholarship forms, and additional questions they have. Cornell is intentionally increasing diversity, taking the initiative to reach out to students of color instead of waiting for the same groups of undergraduates to apply every year. With proactive programs like these, a wide variety of individuals receive assistance and advice applicable to their applications for Cornell and other law schools, increasing the diversity overall in the field of law. Additionally, once accepted, Cornell continues to advocate for diverse thought, discussion, and education with classes geared towards expanding horizons. These courses focus on unique cultures, environments, and international standards along with clinics which encourage students to learn about the world around them and become well-rounded and inclusive leaders in the field of law. Lastly, Cornell incorporates supportive networks into their extracurricular activities. These organizations function as university supported groups for religious, racial, and cultural groups, providing a place for minorities to gather and discuss their shared goals and issues. Through these initiatives, Cornell highlights its commitment to inclusion and effectively increases the diversity in its applicant pool. With these systems in place, the entire field of law becomes more unique and accepting of minority individuals, creating a positive change which will affect generations of lawyers.
These three universities highlight the importance of being intentional and proactive. Each school utilizes a variety of different methods, but they all share a common goal of being dedicated to increasing diversity and inclusion. With diversity as a priority, universities and law firms must continue to partner together in order to make these initiatives successful and benefiting everyone.